The proposed acquisition of Tops developer Centram Systems West by 3Com Inc (CI No 606) has fallen through, but, quick as a flash, Sun Microsystems Inc has stepped in with an agreed counter-offer for the privately-held Berkeley, California firm. The Mountain View workstation manufacturer has agreed to pay 685,000 Sun shares for Centram, valuing the company at just over $20m. Centram terminated its merger talks with 3Com Corp because the parties were unable to reach agreement on final terms – 3Com noted that it wasn’t willing to get into an auction with Sun either, because Sun is an important customer. The acquisition is subject to completion of a definitive contract, regulatory approvals and approval of Centram shareholders. Centram’s key product is its Tops local area network software that enables IBM Personals and Personalikes, Apple Macintoshes and Unix machines, to share data files in real time without the need for dedicated servers, translating between the respective operating systems. Centram began shipping Tops in July and installed over 15,000 nodes in the first five months. Tops is also claimed to be the only distributed file server available for Mac. Sun sees it as complementary to its Network File System.